Trade secrets have been the neglected step-child of IP. However, this is slowly but surely changing for a variety of reasons for example the Law has changed in key jurisdictions, but this change in the law is not the only reason for the growing importance of trade secrets.
Often poorly managed:
However, many companies are poor when it comes to trade secret asset management:
• Trade secrets are poorly managed
• Education is not happening
• There is a lack of ownership
• Documentation is poor.
• Protection mechanisms are poor or non-existent.
• There is a lack of any classification of such assets.
• Details on whether trade secrets have been shared is often missing
• Trade secrets not properly addressed in agreements & contracts
• There is no information sharing between the legal / IP function and the Accounts / Tax function
• There is no audit trail.
The keys to success:
Those exceptional companies who have this mastered tend to have the following things in place
• A Trade Secret Policy
• Education of Employees about Trade Secrets
• Robust Fit for Purpose Trade Secret Processes & Procedures
• Trade Secret Metadata
• Trade Secret Governance
• And A System to Underpin that Process
What is Hazel?
Hazel is such a system. Hazel is a trade secret asset management system for the identification and classification, logging and tracking of these valuable assets. As trade secrets are an un-registered form of IP, the companies must keep its own records of its trade secrets.
Hazel leverages trade secret metadata:
Trade secret metadata summarizes basic information about the trade secret, which can make finding and working with this unique form of IP much easier.
About the Hazel solution:
The Hazel solution has been designed to be relatively easy to install, configure and take into use. It has clear simple and logical data entry screens enabling the entry of trade secret metadata, with limited specialized training or legal help needed for the user.
It contains a detailed built in list of potential trade secrets which has proven of great value to many licensees. The Hazel solution has a feature which creates a historical audit trail of additions and changes. Hazel has been designed and developed around Microsoft technology.
The Hazel solution is capable of producing a suite of interesting reports, for example
Analysis Reports are full of graphs and charts which can be customized in terms of style, colour and branding. Such reports are useful when presenting to key stakeholders for example C Suite Executives. Summary Reports contains a one page summary of the metadata for each trade secret record in the register. Timeline Reports shows key dates of interest. The Flat Report is a large data file. Historical Reports show the development of the trade secret portfolio over time. Usage reports shows how the Hazel solution is being utilized.
Licensees of Hazel:
Our first licensee was a biotech company in the USA, who took a license in early 2016 just as the USA passed the Defend Trade Secrets Act. Today (2022) we have licensees from ‘Canada to China’ but mostly in Europe. Almost all licensees are mid-sized enterprises from a variety of different industry sectors. References from existing licensees are available on request.
Who should be interested in Hazel?
If an operating company only has a handful of trade secrets, then they probably do not need our Hazel solution.
However, if the number of trade secrets in a company is more than a handful; if they are sharing their trade secrets with others; if other entities are entrusting their trade secrets to the company; if the company has employee turnover issues; if the company has any direct or indirect links with entities in the US (given the growing issue with trade secret litigation there); if the company has trade secrets located across diverse EU member states (given the EU Directive on Trade Secrets being enacted in June 2018), if the company is doing any business in China (with its updated Anti Unfair Competition Law); or if the company is conducting any IP due diligence exercises due to some corporate event (M&A, JV, Investment Round, etc.) … then our Hazel solution is potentially of value.
When everything is special, then nothing is special. When it comes to trade secret management, some companies adopt the approach of treating all information within the organization as a trade secret. Although this approach might sound good in theory, it is not great in practice, especially given recent trade secret law changes in key jurisdictions as well as recent corporate tax changes with respect to intangible assets. Today, the best approach is to identify your trade secrets and then treat these particular assets with tender loving care. Our Hazel Trade Secret Asset Management solution supports companies wanting to log and track their trade secrets.